Holiday Internet Marketing: Bring Joy to Your Q4

Once again we’re in make-or-break Q4—the time of year businesses worldwide prep (and hope) for a flood of holiday business. The time of year that can determine the difference between a going concern and concern whether you can keep going.

Be it crafting a quality, attention-grabbing email campaign or optimizing a mobile marketing strategy, this post should guide you to profit maximization and jolly holiday sales.

So yes, hopefully the flood is coming. And with Portent’s holiday internet marketing sales tips, you’re certain not to drown.

Know the (Overall) Best Shopping Days Online

Experts expect the following to be the biggest online shopping dates of the 2012 holiday season (ranked by total revenue):

  1. Monday, November 26 (Cyber Monday)
  2. Monday, December 3
  3. Monday, December 10 (Green Monday)
  4. Tuesday, November 27
  5. Tuesday, December 4
  6. Monday, December 17 (Free Shipping Day)
  7. Tuesday, December 11
  8. Friday, November 30
  9. Thursday, December 6
  10. Thursday, December 13

Most people have heard of Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving) and Cyber Monday (the following Monday), but Green Monday and Free Shipping Day are two powerful, albeit less renowned, sales dates.

Green Monday is two Mondays before Christmas. eBay named it in 2007 because they noticed significant sales spikes on their site that day.

Free Shipping Day is the last day most online retailers will guarantee that their shipments will reach customers’ doorsteps by Christmas Day.

Take a look at the revenue generated on the best online shopping days of 2011:

Significant Shopping DaysOnline Sales (millions)
Monday, November 28 — Cyber Monday$1,251
Monday, December 5$1,178
Monday, December 12 — Green Monday$1,133
Tuesday, November 29$1,116
Tuesday, December 6$1,107
Monday, December 16 — Free Shipping Day$1,072
Tuesday, December 13$1,064
Friday, November 30$1,025
Thursday, December 8$1,024
Thursday, December 15$1,018

What this chart means for you:

  • If any of your best holiday sales dates in 2011 matched any of the dates above, then be prepared. Prominently feature best-selling products on your site around those dates and ensure they are in stock.
  • If you’re planning a sale, run it on your best sales dates and go heavy on promotion.
  • Lastly, don’t look at this calendar as the final authority. If last year’s best holiday shopping day was Christmas Eve, focus your marketing push on Christmas Eve. The point is to maximize your best known opportunities.

Craft Your Holiday Email Marketing Campaign

The holiday season continues to be the heaviest time of year for emails with 2011
experiencing a 19% jump in branded messages over the previous year. But as consumers
receive more emails, open rates decrease. Lesson? Your email needs to pop.

(For the basics of email marketing, check out this refresher by Portent CEO Ian

Below are four tips to improve the odds that your holiday email is opened and considered.

  1. Know your date
    Consider the best overall shopping days online (see section 1) and choose a strategically sound day to send your email.And as December 25 approaches, keep in mind that shipping cut-offs are a major concern for most online shoppers. Under no circumstances offer “holiday” delivery options that you know will reach the customer late.
  2. Vet your email list
    Scrub your email lists for spam reports and bounces, and consider allowing customers to opt in on specific lists (e.g. a “daily special”). By ensuring your target market only receives communication it wants, your opening odds increase.
  3. Generate an attention-grabbing subject line
    The 10 keywords and phrases below are the most clicked on.
    1. Free Shipping
    2. Black Friday
    3. Cyber Monday
    4. % off
    5. 30% off
    6. 50% off
    7. Now
    8. Today
    9. Last
    10. Ends

    Keep in mind none of these keywords guarantees your message will be opened. Your holiday email will sit alongside a zillion others, so incorporate both popular phrases and unique attention-grabbers.

  4. Make it look great
    Design new holiday-themes for your emails — switch up headers, banners, and make use of holiday colors.Make sure your product images are high resolution but still load quickly.

*Extra: Include branded keywords in email coupon codes, then set up a special page on your website just for coupons. This will help track specific conversions.

Light Up the Holidays with a Flash Sale

Flash mob
In the 2011 holiday season, flash sales increased an estimated 31%. A flash sale—not to be confused with a “flash mob” (see right)—is a limited-time, high discount offer.

2 Tips for Making Your Flash Sale Extra Flashy

Evaluate the traffic
For slower traffic days, discounted big ticket items tend to attract customers, whereas a medium ticket item may prove more enticing on a high traffic day like Cyber Monday. Even if the customer decides not to make that big purchase, their eyes will veer towards the other items on your site.

Get specific
There are sites entirely committed to flash sales. To differentiate yourself, you need to offer a specific set of items at a specific time.

For example, if you sell power equipment, place only power drills on sale for one day.

Advertise All Venues: Store and Internet

In Q2 of 2012, online sales accounted for 5.1% ($54.84 billion) of seasonally adjusted total retail spending and, according to, 76% of consumers research online before making 30% of all retail purchases.

While e-commerce shows staggering growth, you have exponentially more opportunity if you’re able to market both online and at a brick-and-mortar location.

Make it simple for customers to find and buy your products with these basic steps:

  1. Optimize Local SEO. Your nearest store needs to appear in top position when customers search for it on Google.
  2. Standardize your store addresses and phone numbers across all directories.
  3. Ensure your store location and/or locator is prominent on your website.
  4. Email specials and coupons to registered customers for their nearest location.

And e-commerce’s one severe limitation—shipping—can prove a boon to in-person sales. December 18–24 is the prime week for advertising products to last minute brick-and-mortar shoppers.

How Mobile/Tablet Friendly Are You?

mobile shopping
The iPhone 5 sold 5 million units within 3 days of launch and the Samsung Galaxy S3 sells 200,000 units per day; these figures are bound to increase in Q4. Given the unbridled growth of this market, optimizing your presence in these channels is crucial.

Most smartphone-savvy shoppers use their mobile devices in the following three ways:

  1. To price compare with your competitors’ sites (now easier than ever thanks to barcode search).
  2. To check the availability of products both through the website and in-store.
  3. To easily obtain store addresses and directions for navigation.

How to convert on mobile opportunities:

  1. Get your website mobile friendly. Go Mo is a great resource.
  2. Use strong SEO (especially Local) and mobile PPC to get customers to your site.
  3. Prominently show store location and contact information.
  4. Ensure product pages are easily accessible and that especially popular products are prominent.
  5. Advertise product availability, whether in-store or online.
  6. Offer a 10%-20% coupon on your mobile site redeemable online or by showing it to a cashier on screen.

apps for smart phones

And if you have an app, keep in mind that app-store gift cards are BIG stocking stuffers, especially for anyone getting a mobile or tablet device. Someone who receives both is a conversion waiting to happen.

Advertise your app consistently through November and December via mobile offerings on your site, emails, and social networks. And you don’t need to stop at Christmas—your product doesn’t require shipping and is the perfect follow-up gift to anyone with a new phone or tablet.

Build Your Community

A conversion doesn’t have to be a sale. Below are a few ideas for attracting and engaging your consumers without overtly pressuring them to buy.

  1. Give away something fancy
    Giveaways are a great go-to for encouraging involvement, especially when the item is particularly popular, unique, or relevant to your business.
  2. Offer helpful holiday tips
    Consumers often appreciate advice on decorating a table, stringing lights, baking holiday treats, or distracting in-laws.
  3. Incentivize participation on social media
    For example, offer a weekly discount for the most original use of a particular product. You can judge the contest based on “Likes.”
  4. Be considerate
    As stock depletes in stores, provide updates via Facebook and Twitter. Point customers to locations where the products are still available.

The takeaway? Interact with your community. Build loyalty—and, yes, eventually sales—through a productive and engaging back-and-forth with your target market. You won’t lose a customer by being too helpful.

Post-Holiday Sales

post holiday sales event
Holiday sales don’t stop at Christmas. While the retail market traditionally dips post-holidays, New Year’s resolutions save Q1 for anything fitness, health, and sports related. Promote the products that fit these criteria, or get creative and cross-promote.

The following days boast the highest post-holiday sales:

  • December 26-28
  • January 1-2

Plan your emails and send them right before or early on those days. Customers want to see subject lines like “After-Christmas Sale,” “Holiday Clearance,” and “New Year’s Clearance.”

A Few Last Minute Musts

Optimize Images
Always optimize images for speed and quality both onsite and in email communication. As a general rule, use lossless compression whenever possible. For web graphics, use a PNG or GIF rather than JPG for improved image quality. For photographic images, use JPG to minimize the file size for speed, but be sure not to sacrifice image quality by re-saving too many times.

Fix Broken Links
Especially in times of high traffic and frantic shopping, a broken link on your site means a lost customer. You’re missing SEO opportunities and, more importantly, a flawed site makes you look less reliable. There are plenty of free tools available such as Xenu that will find broken links for you, so there’s no excuse.

Gauge Your AdWords
Be conscious of your ROI. To run an efficient and profitable AdWords campaign:

  • Run multiple ad-groups to compare the success and performance of different terms.
  • Promote coupon codes in ad text.
  • Evaluate whether landing customers on product or category pages produces higher revenue. Target the answer.
  • Narrow your audience for higher conversions and cheaper spend by finding less expensive long-tail and product-specific terms.

Are You Ready for the Holidays?

So there you have it. Follow these tips and you’ll be a billionaire by January 1. OK, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but the tips above give you a great jumping off point for creating an effective, efficient holiday sales e-strategy.

If you’d like more education, information or suggestions on web marketing strategy, please feel free to shop the Portent store for such classic hits as:

We wish a merry holiday season to you and yours!

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See how Portent can help you own your piece of the web.

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  1. I’m really surprised not see this years Black Friday (Nov. 23) on there. I guess its mostly in-store traffic/revenue. Perhaps its because Thanksgiving is earlier than usual with 5 Thursdays in the month.

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